Research by LSE has concluded that the gender pay gap could widen over time due to social factors that are ‘sorting’ women into lower paid ‘female’ professions and failing to advocate for higher male participation in those areas. In fact, the research found that boys were increasingly aspiring towards jobs with ‘significantly higher levels of competitiveness and larger incomes’.
City Hive view
To address this imbalance a co-ordinated policy approach is likely needed. The authors of the study conclude that social movements are needed to challenge the current norms and create tipping points, for example, in moving larger numbers of girls towards STEM careers.
The LSE research, Cross Cohort Evidence on Gendered Sorting Patterns in the UK: The Importance of Societal Movements versus Childhood Variables, found that the internalising of social norms rather than innate preferences were the underlying cause of the lack of women in highly paid professions STEM and leadership professions such as politics. It showed that girls born in 2000 were aspiring to lower paid jobs than men – 31% lower paid. Meanwhile the boys in the same cohort were more ambitiously seeking pay higher incomes and prospects compared to not only the girls, but also previous male cohorts from 1958 and 1970.
And to compound this, despite an increase in women seeking roles in law, accounting and pharmacy, they were unable to address the imbalance in ratio in the profession as male behaviour remained unchanged. More than 80% of such professionals are men and this has remained unchanged over six decades.
This suggests that boys are receiving more intensified messages that financial performance and career progressing should be their sole focus – which sounds unsustainable, and runs counter to the creation of policies and support in the workplace for a more flexible approach. No wonder uptake of policies like parental leave remain low.
The researchers also underscore that even while efforts have been made to drive more women to take up STEM subjects, there has not been an equivalent effort to redistribute male careers – evidenced by the lack of male primary school teachers, for example. This will become increasingly important in the coming decades as the caring needs of ageing populations increase.
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